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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was substantially increasing the sale of military equipment to Japan and South Korea to counter the threat they faced from North Korea.

The move followed North Korea’s Saturday night nuclear test, which monitors said was the strongest of the six tests the communist country has conducted so far. North Korean officials said later they had tested a hydrogen bomb and international observers confirmed their claim.

In his immediate response to the test, President Trump asked other nations to sever trade ties with North Korea and threatened sanctions against the nations that did not. This was interpreted in Washington as a warning to China, which is the largest trading partner of both North Korea and the United States.

On Sunday evening, President Trump chaired a meeting of his national security team, which included US Defence Secretary James Mattis and his generals. After the meeting, Secretary Mattis announced that they had also discussed “various military options” against North Korea.

On Tuesday, the American president announced his decision to sell more weapons to Japan and South Korea. “I am allowing Japan and South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States,” Mr Trump tweeted.

Diplomatic observers in Washington say that despite this tough talk, the Trump administration is not yet ready to launch a military strike on North Korea, particularly because the region’s two strongest US allies, Japan and South Korea, are against any military adventure in their area.

Although Pyongyang’s nuclear programme poses a direct threat to the two countries, they do not see war as a viable option.

The Trump administration, however, believes that its tough talk, particularly the decision to provide sophisticated weapons to North Korea’s main adversaries, could deter Pyongyang from expanding its nuclear programme.

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2017